Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
August 25, 2004
Category: Serious … Technical Stuff

I may have to start doing multiple short posts instead of long posts every day to every few days. We'll see. For the moment, I'm so not in the mood to write about what the past two days at work have been like -- I'm off today and tomorrow, so perhaps at some point I'll share my tales of assholes THE LIKES OF WHICH YOU'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE.

In the meantime, I've got a bone to pick with the css Zen Garden (or maybe just one of the authors in particular). I came across the link on Kitzi's blog the other day and decided to swing by. Upon a cursory glance around the place, I'll admit, I was impressed. Now, as you can probably tell by looking at the blog and Scary-Crayon, I'm not that hung up on how my sites look -- my main concern is the content of the pages. I think there ar far too many sites with incredible visual appeal that are either too difficult to navigate or are very easy to navigate because there's nothing there. So I favor simpler designs that get the job done. I don't try to make them extremely flashy and stylish, I'm not too concerned with trying to keep up with the latest stylistic html developments, and I know next to nothing about javascript and Flash. (In fact, it's worth noting that I'd actually made up my mind to purchase Macromedia Flash, for cartooning purposes, but one look at the system reqs told me there was no way my PC could handle the program. So sad. ;_;)

However, I do care about how the pages look, so I'm not a complete minimalist. I do spend quite a bit of time fiddling with the appearance of pages. A good 40-60% of the work on SC involves working with images (but then, that probably has more to do with the subject matter of the site than my own personal tastes). So my pages don't need to be FANTAHSTIK, but they need to look "nice enough". Or at least I want them to. And I think they do.

Browser compatibility is also important to me. A lot of the tweaks I make to the site probably go unnoticed by the viewers, because a lot of it involves fixing things I don't like about the appearance of the site in other browsers. I chiefly use Mozilla (right now 0.8, but I'm planning to install 0.9 soon), so that's what I'm looking at to "check" my work, but occasionally I fire up IE and poke around the site in it to make sure it looks okay. Usually it looks slightly different (due to text display differences) but otherwise okay, sometimes there are annoyances that I let slide (the space between paragraphs tends to be larger in IE), and sometimes I'm irritated enough to go and fix things (I removed most of the <p> tags on the main page and switched them to <div> tags, using the magic invisible pixel to separate paragraphs, just to remedy the problem mentioned in the previous parenthetical). Admittedly, some of the compatibility issues that I dealt with when I was learning html have been resolved, so some of the tweaking also involves removing tricks that are no longer necessary. But then again, some of those irritating quirks still remain, and new ones have risen up to replace the old fixes. I'd love to know how to make a page look exactly the same in every browser, but in the meantime we make due with what we've got. Some of these issues are compounded even further when you get into newfangled CSS-based layouts.

So while CSS is neat -- and I do use it in places on the site -- I try to restrict it to font/color displays and use tables for the bulk of my actual layout. After all, those have been around for ages, so they tend to look the same in all "modern" browsers. Using ids and blocks defined in CSS is iffy -- even with the blog, which displays relatively similarly in all browsers with which I've viewed it, there are some individual quirks that irk me, though I've resolved myself to accept them.

The css Zen Garden urges us to "clear the mind of past practices" and claims that "web enlightenment has been achieved thanks to the tireless efforts of folk like the W3C, WaSP and the major browser creators," but we all know that that's not entirely true. And it's not like the folks at the garden are ignorant of that fact either: "Unfortunately, designing this way highlights the flaws in the various implementations of CSS. Different browsers display differently, even completely valid CSS at times, and this becomes maddening when a fix for one leads to breakage in another." So I think they'd understand why some webfolk would be reluctant to get rid of those past practices a little too prematurely.

Poordesign, huh?

It's the implied arrogance of certain developers, then, that gets to me -- namely one Michael Fasani, author of the Switch On design. Maybe I'm taking it slightly personally, given that I've sworn by tables for eons now, but seeing a table in <poordesign> tags seems incredibly unjustified. For one, design ultimately hinges on visual output, not coding prowess -- if using a table and a CSS block produce the same effect in my browser, not only do I not care, but I probably won't even notice (it's not like I go viewing the source code of every page I visit). And it's not like pages done in CSS are so much more compact, codewise, that the html files are so much smaller that they take them significantly less time to load, so who really cares?


But I guess what really bugs me is that this guy's "design for tomorrow" doesn't even look right in my fucking browser. Above, we see that the design list actually overruns the space set aside for it...


And here, I dunno about you, but that header text looks awfully close to the text beneath it. Like, so close that the "L" in "would" is overlapped by the "Q" in "Requirements". I don't think that happens too much with <poordesign> tables </poordesign>, though.

Anyway, there goes my disjointed and slightly incoherent rant for the morning. See you next time.

-posted by Wes | 9:41 am | Comments (0)
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